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How involved should fans expect the Colts to be in free agency?

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

You’ve probably heard a thing or two about it by now (if not, check our front page), but free agency starts this week. The legal tampering period begins tomorrow, while the new league year officially begins at 4:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 9.

Several of the top free agents will have deals agreed to right at the start of the new league year or right after, and so it will be an eventful week in the NFL for sure. In recent years, the Colts have been pretty involved in this free agent process as they’ve turned to veterans to try to fill needs, but they’ve seen mixed results. Now they have a new general manager running the show, and many are wondering what to expect from Chris Ballard in free agency.

Last week at the NFL Combine, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport spoke with Colts.com about what to expect from Ballard in free agency:

“Well, I would not expect the Colts to sit on their hands,” Rapoport said. “If you look at some of the background of Chris Ballard and what they did in Kansas City, they’ve always been active in free agency. I just wouldn’t expect it to be a big splash. I wouldn’t be surprised if you add some additions, certainly on the defensive side of the ball, I could understand that offensive line would be the spot that’s pretty strong in free agency, maybe running back would be another place to add. I’m just not sure I would expect a big splash. My mind, just judging Ballard what I know and from his background, I would expect more the middle-market free agents, where teams like say the Patriots and Lions and some of the other [teams], the teams that have staying power, that’s usually where they feast and I would expect the Colts to look in the same area.”

Rapoport seems to obviously be speaking more based on what he knows of Ballard rather than what he knows of the Colts’ plans, but it’s in line with what Ballard himself has said. Ballard wanted to make it clear last week that he doesn’t want there to be a misconception that he’ll never sign free agents, but rather that he wants them to be very calculated moves that also take into account the locker room impact.

The impression we’ve gotten from Ballard is that he’ll absolutley take part in free agency, but he won’t make that the primary method of building his team (that’s through the draft) and that it will be a more calculated approach. That gives the impression that the Colts will operate like Rapoport expects: making some moves, but mainly regarding middle-tier guys rather than some of the top guys or a big splash.

The Colts have plenty of money to spend, as they’ll have around $53 million in cap space, but that doesn’t necessarily have to all go to top guys. Instead, the Colts could opt to sign a handful of second-tier or second-wave free agents to help address needs. The Colts will be involved in free agency, but it might not be the huge moves that get fans talking.